The Jacksonville, Mayport & Pablo
Railway and Navigation Company
(Known as the JM&P)
Chartered in 1886 by Alexander Wallace, an interesting part of the history of Jacksonville is the JM&P railroad from Mayport to Arlington. It was proposed to provide swift access for a growing number of Jacksonville residents to vacation at Mayport and the adjoining beaches and to haul phosphate and other freight. The railroad originally began at a large dock in the naturally deep water of the Arlington shore just north of the Matthews bridge. Passengers were ferried to the dock from a ticket office at the foot of Newnan Street by the steamer “Kate Spencer”. Freight was brought to the dock from upriver by schooners or loaded in Mayport for a return trip to Arlington.
From the dock the railroad crossed the forest of Arlington northeasterly just south of the crossroads with a depot and turnaround at the new community of Eggleston and then on to Gilmore (crossing Hartsfield at a road called the crossing). It continued easterly through the Holly Oaks area where the dam now exist to Cosmo (station was near Ft. Caroline PO). From that point it ran along the same path of what is now the Wonderwood Expressway to the former communities of Idelwilde, Mt. Pleasant and Greenfield Plantation (now Queens Harbor) where it crossed the marshes of Pablo Creek to Burnside Beach (now Hannah Park). This is where Wallace had built a pavilion and the Burnside Hotel to attract visitors. The train could leave Burnside and go back to Arlington or go into the community of Mayport through what is now the Mayport Naval station passing just south of the Lighthouse to a dock on the river.
It officially opened on May 17, 1888 with a gala event and a great turnout at the hotel at Burnside, however the train broke down on it’s return to Arlington and received the nickname of the JM&P of “Jump Men and Push”. Wallace met an untimely death in November of 1889 shortly followed by the loss of the Burnside hotel to fire. The railroad was then managed for Wallace’s widow by the Stockton family. It was sold in 1892 to the partnership of Russell, Youmans and Scott who immediately extended the railroad to South Jacksonville to tie into Flagler’s FEC railroad. The extension ran through the community of Clifton with a bridge across the Arlington river which the Clifton residents claimed blocked navigation.
The railroad ceased operation in 1895 and was sold at public auction this time to the Stockton family. It continued to be used for the delivery of mail by handcars and had special runs made for specific items. There was a flurry of law suits and the 28 miles of tract was finally removed in 1900.
The railroad served its purpose in the development of Arlington, providing ferry service to Jacksonville and access to Mayport and South Jacksonville by rail. It delivered mail and other goods to the early settlers and no doubt had a positive effect on the growth of the area. Eggleston had it’s own hotel which surely benefited by quick access to the ocean. There are several accounts written by former passengers. Mr. Hawley, editor of the Arlingtonian newsletter wrote several articles in the forties of his riding the train on his wedding day and later to go from Gilmore to South Jacksonville by handcar to work.
After the tracts were removed the railroad bed became known as the “tram” road, and disappeared little by little as Arlington developed. Always a legend in Arlington, boy scouts camping at the red bay springs were told ghost stories of mysterious train whistles coming from the nearby roadbed at midnight. The Old Arlington history group has made the JM&P railroad one of the items discussed in their tours and have talked about having a special tour of the railroads route, painting templates of little steam engines on the major roadways it crossed.
One of the few
spots where remains of the railroad are visible is in the woods of Arboretum
preserve in East Arlington. A sizeable embankment exist where the area was
built up to reduce the grade the small steam engines used had to climb. This
would make a good point of interest in a nature trail tour. Also a
self-conducted tour of the Wonderwood Expressway could be published beginning
at Hannah Park with the Hotel site and discussing the English and Spanish
plantations in Mayport, at Queens Harbor , Fort Caroline, Cedar Swamp (Richard
Grant) and many other items of history along the way. Cleve Powell rev. 8-6-07
Cleve Powell rev. 8-6-07